- The former fast-fashion empire of Forever 21 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2019.
- Since then, the company has closed all-but-three of its locations in Manhattan, and it could close 178 underperforming stores throughout the US and 350 globally in 2020.
- Forever 21 accepted a deal to sell to several mall owners for $81 million on February 3, which will be solidified if no other interested parties offer more money by February 7.
- We visited the last three Forever 21s in Manhattan and saw first-hand why the company continues to struggle.
- We saw why Forever 21 couldn’t win over the sustainably-minded Gen Z – their clothing appeared to be cheaply made and not built to last.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
I began my tour of Manhattan’s last remaining Forever 21s at the Soho location, which Yelpers have reported as already closed.
But the store is still very much open.
The first thing I noticed about this location was how organized it appeared.
I started shopping at Forever 21 a decade ago, and I’ve never seen a location this neat and organized.
What shocked me the most was that there was only one sale rack …
… which was one of the only messy areas of the store.
While discount signs were present throughout the store, there was no sale-specific area aside from that rack.
As soon as I entered the store, I grabbed one of these shopping bags and began browsing.
First, I grabbed these pants from the “Winter Collection.”
After tossing them into my shopping bag, I realized that the bag had a gaping hole in the bottom of it.
I continued to make my way around the store as I grabbed a variety of clothing items to try on.
I skipped these bike shorts because they were rough to the touch. They felt like sandpaper.
I even hit the men’s department — which appeared to be untouched. In fact, the whole store kind of felt this way.
There were hardly any people in the store, and most of them seemed to be working there, though none made an effort to engage with me.
After picking various items, I headed to the dressing room to try everything on and see if anything seemed to be built to last.
The first thing I tried on was this corduroy-style shirt that was riddled with loose threads.
One look at the tag and it wasn’t clear what the shirt was made of, but it wasn’t very comfortable.
The next thing I tried on was an oversized denim jacket — a Gen Z closet staple.
After glancing at the tag, I saw that the denim jacket wasn’t made from 100% cotton.
Source: Naturally Savvy
Materials included polyester, a petroleum-based synthetic fabric that has no absorbency. The jacket felt paper-thin …
… and stiff. This was a sorry excuse for a jacket in my opinion.
Next, I checked the material of the “winter” pants I picked up. According to the New York Times, work pants built to last should be made of Tencel or wool. But these pants were pretty much just polyester.
They looked decent on, but they felt as warm as a pair of see-through tights. I would never buy them for a winter in New York.
This is the face I made when I unzipped the “winter” pants and they pinched my belly. Ouch.
Next, I tried on this cropped pullover sweater that was certainly my size but disproportionately designed — I could barely get my head through the neck hole, and when I did, it choked my neck slightly.
Next, I tried this overly-distressed sweater on.
Normally, I like a distressed article of clothing, but this sweater felt like it could actually unravel at any moment.
I also tried on this shirt and thought that these sunglasses would likely come off after just one wash.
The last thing I tried on was this onesie because it had a $50 price tag a month after Christmas. I thought maybe this wasn’t on sale because it was so comfy, but it wasn’t comfy at all. The price is still a mystery to me.
I didn’t find anything that seemed it would last at Forever 21, but I checked out the cash register anyway, which seemed to house the most random collection of snacks and junk.
Next, I headed to the Penn Station location, which is expected to close this year.
Source: Business Insider
I immediately noticed there were more sale signs at this location than the store in Soho.
Inside, there was an "Up to 60% off storewide" sign, which made this location feel more like a store that's about to close.
This location was messier than Soho.
It was also bigger than the Soho store and felt like slightly less of a ghost-town.
But it featured the same cheaply-made clothing.
There were some clothes I could see my hand through. This is a sign the piece won't last long.
Source: The New York Times
This location also had its own Riley Rose store — Forever 21's beauty branch that will reportedly be closing all its stores.
When I took a quick peek in the store, it seemed like it was already ramping down.
There were many sale shelves that were mostly empty.
And while there were "try me" stickers everywhere ...
... there didn't seem to be any wands or swabs to apply makeup.
There were only bottles of alcohol and makeup remover on a tiny dirty table.
Did they really expect me to apply eye shadow from this used palette with my fingers?
Back in Forever 21, this location had all the sale racks I expected to see at the Soho location.
I even found the Christmas onesie that wasn't in a sale section at the Soho location.
A price menu showed low costs that were just too good to be true for well-made clothing.
Some of the sale racks were mostly empty too.
The third and final Forever 21 location in New York is the flagship store in Times Square.
This was by far the biggest — and the busiest— of the three remaining locations.
It also had quite a few empty racks ...
... scattered throughout the store.
There were some empty areas where I couldn't even tell what was supposed to be displayed there.
I found more pieces of clothing that looked nice on the rack but seemed to be cheaply made after examining them.
This location also had many sale racks ...
The rooms full of sale racks just looked like piles of unwanted junk.
And the price menu confirmed this with its ridiculously low prices.
This was the only location that had a line for the dressing room, which may be a good sign for this location's longevity.
Ultimately, all three stores gave off a similar vibe — "we wish people were here."